Last night I managed to get into the much anticipated and rumored final project for the master of Hungarian stoicism Bela Tarr, The Turin Horse, freely inspired by an episode that marked the end of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s career. On January 3,1889, on the piazza Alberto in Turin, a weeping Nietzsche flung his arms around an exhausted and ill-treated carriage horse, then lost consciousness. After this event, the philosopher never wrote again and descended into madness and silence.
Tarr delivers his usual brand of wind swept black and white rural isolationism, this time set in the late 1800’s and filming the few objects of the period as though they’re appearing on film for the first time. The images, which offer the typical dose of the mundane, follow six days in the life of a horse driver and what appears to be his daughter, both getting by on their daily sustenance of boiled potatoes and vodka. The two are confined to a tiny one room home, the stall for the horse and carriage, and the land just outside the door. This is Tarr’s chamber drama, delivered in sparse dialogue, with few visitors from the outside world. The only other presence is the gale force winds driving against the house for the full six days, which seem to swallow the landscape with each passing day.
Two visits are paid to the household, one from a drunkard seeking more vodka, who delivers a monologue on the evils of capitalism which he refers to as debasing the world through acquisition. No doubt a not so subtle injection of the housing crisis into this particularly bleak fare? The other surprise visit is paid by a band of traveling gypsies who offer a biblical text in exchange for the consumption of some water, an act that delivers one of the only plot twists, if you could label it such!
Glacially paced, as per usual, if this is indeed Tarr’s final work, he’s left us with a haunting allegory on the brutality of our time.